Finding your voice can often be one of the hardest things to accomplish during your life, let alone your career. It becomes evident as we mature, that being listened to is very different to being heard. Being heard is about how you communicate, how confident and assertive you need to be to deliver your message, and get people to really take note of what it is you’re saying.
Whether speaking at an event, meeting, presentation, communicating with clients, suppliers, colleagues, friends or family members, speaking up and being heard is always of importance and we need to ensure that our words resonate and do not fall on deaf ears. There are a number of ways and key skills which can be developed to ensure that we communicate effectively and deliver any message intended, and in turn speak up and stand out.
Below are a few key points to help you cut to the chase and be heard through the noise in the workplace, and allow your verbal utterings to gain the credibility and validation they deserve.
Take charge: The word assertiveness is sometimes viewed negatively, and brings with it associations of rudeness, abruptness and aggressiveness. However, the definition of the word, according to the Collins dictionary 2014, revolves around having the “confidence and directness in claiming your rights or putting forward your views.” With this in mind, it soon becomes clear that being assertive is key in the workplace and taking charge and making people pay attention to what you’re saying is of great importance in everyday tasks.
Take for example the dreaded task of negotiating with suppliers – for some this can be deemed as a welcome challenge, but for others the very thought of speaking up and negotiating a reduced cost is quite daunting. Harness your knowledge, take charge and entrust yourself with the confidence that you have the knowledge and capability to get the best possible price from your supplier.
Be realistic about what is achievable. Do your research to ensure that the figure you have in mind is realistic, and build a case of why your lower offer is justified. Look for specific negotiation points, for example an exemplary payment record, you can pay early if needed, ordering large quantities, future business, recommendations to clients, etc and take it from there – be assertive and confident in your approach. This way you will portray yourself as a strong-minded, confident professional, who has good business acumen and, if you do get a good deal, you’ll definitely be remembered and respected as someone who is not afraid to speak up and seal the deal.
Position yourself as an industry expert: You should never underestimate the power of self-confidence and how it impacts every area of your life as well as other people. Often mistaken for arrogance, confidence is the foresight and belief in yourself to succeed and achieve desired outcomes, and to have the ability to communicate effectively in a self-assured way.
It’s extremely important to be aware of your skills and abilities in the workplace, and you should never overlook your professional value – in fact you should celebrate it. By recognising your professional worth, you could find the confidence to talk at events or become a mentor to members of your team or other professionals in your extended network. Speak up and share best practice by offering help and advice to those who are in need of it, and ultimately position yourself as an industry expert. Think back to some of the events you have attended, and consider how the speakers have helped you progress or develop yourself professionally through inspirational and motivational talks, or sharing best practice and tips of the trade.
Now think how you can help other industry professionals by speaking up and sharing your experiences and expertise. Not only will you build on your self-confidence and career development, but you will help to develop and enhance the confidence and progression of others too. If you don’t speak up and seize opportunities, one thing is for sure – someone else will, and you will miss out.
Present your best side: No matter what you are communicating or with whom, presentation is always key. Consider the way in which you present yourself, deliver and project information or communicate with colleagues or your boss. Do people trust, or even respect what you are saying? Do they have confidence in you and your skills? A really great way to instil confidence in others of your skills and abilities in the workplace is to lead with company values. Company values reflect the vision of an organisation and ultimately shape its cultural landscape. By finding a way to incorporate these values and demonstrate your awareness of them in your day-to-day activity, you instil confidence in everyone around you.
Be seen as being active and representative of your company, and stand out as being an influential player in the business who is completely in-tune and mindful of the aims and objectives of the business and fundamentally what it represents. By demonstrating to your boss that you wholeheartedly understand the business, you place yourself in a great and trusted position to represent it in their absence.
Map out your next career step: Being one step ahead of the game is no mean feat, and going that extra mile will really help you stand out. Be on the look-out for new challenges, and speak up about how passionate and eager you are to take the next step in your career and continuing to develop. Ask for that project which everyone else is scared to approach. By speaking up and having the confidence and ability to look for and embrace new challenges, you’re sure to stand out as a go-getter and self-starter, and be well rewarded for your efforts.
Don’t be afraid to look for new tasks which may be slightly outside of your remit. This can be a daunting thought, but you should consider the new skills you will develop, or the skills you already have which can be put to great use. Also embrace the opportunities which arise to immerse yourself in other areas of the business; this enables you to become more well-rounded and informed. Take the leap and get that raise.
In order to speak up and stand out, you need to carefully consider the areas in which you wish to professionally develop yourself and be recognised as an expert. Continuing professional development (CPD) is becoming increasingly important in many sectors of industry and should never be undervalued, as it allows professionals to continue developing throughout their careers and ultimately enhance their progression, through continued learning and development. Considering some of the scenarios outlined above, there are many courses, seminars and diplomas which can enhance your skills and confidence in order to help you stand out and ultimately help you develop new skills to evolve professionally.
A course in business communication could be the perfect way to enhance your communication skills and bring them up to speed allowing you to operate effectively in a fast-paced business environment. A more focused course such as costing and pricing could be the perfect way to gain hands-on practical training to deal with real business scenarios and help demystify some of the complexities around costing and pricing, so you get the best possible results. Alternatively, a seminar which helps boost your confidence or assertiveness is a great way to explore methods designed to assist you in developing positive thoughts, emotions and behaviours, and to get a better and more emphatic handle on life and work challenges. As outlined, presentation skills are key in any form of communication, and a course or seminar could be a good way to enhance your presentation skills and gain transferable communication skills which can be drawn on in different business scenarios.
Speaking up and standing out professionally can be a very challenging and scary prospect. It’s all a case of harnessing your confidence and becoming assertive. Once you do this you’ll be in a position to speak up and stand out and truly showcase your professional talents and abilities. As a result new opportunities will come to light and you will have the potential to become an influential industry player who is more than capable of seizing them.